All-time greats turnout for Gene Upshaw |

All-time greats turnout for Gene Upshaw

Alex Carter watches his shot on the back nine at Schaffer’s Mill during the Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Classic on Monday, July 9.
Justin Scacco /

More than 20 former pro athletes teed off all around Schaffer’s Mill Golf & Lake Club this week for the 10th annual Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Classic.

This year’s event, which included a Pairing’s Party at Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, pushed the fund past $1.5 million raised for health programs and research.

“It’s amazing what our local community has done,” said Martha Simon, director of fund development. “But people from all over — Chicago, D.C., Atlanta — have heard about this tournament and they are repeat participants and sponsors, because they love Lake Tahoe and they especially love the cause.”

Gene Upshaw, who was an NFL Hall of Fame guard for the Raiders, died in 2008 from pancreatic cancer at Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee. His wife, Terri Upshaw, later established the Gene Upshaw Memorial Fund in partnership with Tahoe Forest Health System, to honor the memory of her late husband.


“Everybody that’s been part of this tournament the past 10 years, this group getting this thing set up today, last night at the Ritz-Carlton, Schaffer’s … I just appreciate each and every one of you that take time out of your summer schedules to be here to raise money for a beautiful cause,” said Terri Upshaw in a speech to the crowd before the tournament began. “I’m so proud of the cancer center.”

The weekend’s festivities began on Sunday night with the Pairings Party, where individuals who had purchased tickets to play a round with a celebrity were placed into groups of four and five for the following day’s round.

The evening’s annual silent auction brought in roughly $72,000, according to Simon, on top of a $100,000 donation from Schaffer’s Mill, and $50,000 apiece from the NFL Foundation and the Professional Athletes Foundation.

Part of the Pairings Party included a “Just Give” portion, where individuals donated to receive a mini foam football. The audience was then directed to think of someone they know that has dealt with cancer, before tossing the balls to the players onstage. According to Simon, Arizona State University Head Coach Herm Edwards seized the opportunity to begin coaching up individuals in the audience, critiquing their throwing form.

The playful nature of the weekend rolled into the following morning with former receiver Sterling Sharpe holding court among the athletes and players. With cigar in mouth Sharpe warmed up for his round, joked around with the crowd and also with members of the Truckee High School football team, who were on hand to help out.

While the Wolverines enjoyed Sharpe’s antics, they did receive some words of wisdom from an all-time great.

“This is the time when you’ve just got to enjoy it,” said Hall of Fame receiver Tim Brown. “Because if you’re fortunate enough to go to the next level, college, it’s a different kind of responsibility, then certainly once you get to the pros. But now in high school, it’s all about enjoying it. Just have fun, enjoy your buddies. They’re memories you’ll never forget.”

Brown, who has been a staple at the event over the years, said the annual golf classic has grown each year due to the job of the tournament’s organizers, and also players’ loyalty toward Upshaw.

“They’ve done a great job making sure the guys are taken care of,” said Brown. “We all come back because of Gene. We were talking about him on the way over here today, he did a lot for us, and this is the least we can do for him.”

Aside from his playing career, Upshaw helped fight for players’ rights as a member of the NFL Player’s Association. He served as the Executive Director of the association until his death in 2008.

In the course of play

Temperatures were near ideal once the players hit the course for the shamble format (best drive) round, playing 18 holes under pristine conditions at Schaffer’s Mill Golf & Lake Club’s par-71 course.

The group teamed with former linebacker Cornelius Bennett captured this year’s title, combining to shoot an 87. Gregory Schweinzger, Chad Schweinzger, Matt Schweinzger, and Jim Hook were Bennett’s playing partners.

Sterling Sharpe’s fivesome was next with a 90, followed by former defensive lineman Otis Sistrunk and his group with a 92.

For more information on the Gene Upshaw Memorial Classic visit

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at

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